Cancer Burden is Growing Across India

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A research paper titled History of Growing burden of Cancer in India: From Antiquity to 21st centuryhas traced the growing burden of cancer across states in the country.


  • The study conducted by researchers from Tata Medical Centre, Kolkata, and Robert Smith from Kings College, London noted that the reason for the growing incidence of cancer in the country is due to epidemiological transition and better cancer diagnostics usage.
  • In India, the recording of cancer cases began in the 19th century with the introduction of biopsy and pathological examination by the colonial British regime.
  • As cancer is the disease of older people, the incidence of cancer increasers among old people.
  • Populous and least developed states where cancer diagnostics equipment is inadequate will see the maximum increase in cancer cases.
  • The study offers lessons to the state governments in cancer care as there is an epidemiological transition.
  • The transition is fastest in Kerala and is slowest in Uttar Pradesh.

Difference Between The States

  • The incidence of cancer cases in Kerala is high compared to Uttar Pradesh is due to demographic and social variables, availability of health care facilities and low incidence of mortality due to infectious diseases.
  • Uttar Pradesh still has hight mortality due to communicable diseases.
  • The report also found that there is a transition in the type of cancers occurring in India.
  • While there is a decline in cancers due to infections, such as the stomach, penile and cervical cancers, there is an increase in cancers associated with energy intake, physical activity imbalance, and aging – breast, prostate and colorectal cancers.
  • The study notes that this cancer transition necessitates site-specialised cancer surgeons. For example, Kerala needs more breast oncologists and UP needs more gynecological oncologists.
  • As per the study, the association of tobacco chewing with cancer is known for over 100 years, only recently that it has been noted that it is the cause for the fifth of all the cancers in India.
  • The study further notes that out-of-pocket expenditure for private inpatient cancer care in India is three times higher  and 40% of the cancer costs are met through borrowing, and contributions from friends and relatives.


The research provides various insights for the government in providing proper cancer care in the country. It provides insights on allocation of resources – physical, financial and human – according to the needs of a state.

State governments should make use of such research reports for bringing out effective policies that benefit all citizens.

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